Education and Collaboration
During its tenure, the Commission conducted two educational forums. The first, held on January 11th – 13th, 2009, offered members of the Alaska State Legislature an opportunity to learn about the foundational principles of Federal Indian Law as that body of law applies in Alaska. The Commission led a discussion that contrasted the challenges of living in both urban and rural Alaska, and the governmental resources available in these areas to address those challenges. The Commission also led a discussion that explored the fundamental principles, values, and requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and what roles tribal and state governments should — and do — play in protecting the welfare and safety of Alaska Native children.
Two years later, on July 25th – 27th, 2011, the Commission conducted a Tribal-State Dialogue inviting six invited leaders from the Alaska State Legislature (three each from the House of Representatives and the Senate), the State's Executive Branch, and the Alaska Native community to participate in dialogue about tribal-state communication and coordination. Participants in this Summit explored possible recommendations to the Alaska State Legislature and the Governor regarding whether to create a permanent point of contact and forum for Tribal-State issues, and what that body might look like.
While interruptions in funding prevented the Commission from fully realizing its potential, the Commission's initial recommendations influenced important decisions that have affected the delivery of essential public safety services in rural Alaska. In particular, progress has been made regarding enhancement of public safety capacity and infrastructure in rural communities:
- The Alaska State Troopers and the U.S. Postal Service agreed to cross deputize Postal Inspectors, and the Alaska State Troopers have implemented that agreement.
- The Alaska State Troopers created a sub-hub in the Native Village of Selawik, designating an office and residence for use by a roving Alaska State Trooper so that the troopers do not have to rely on the regional hub as a home base.
- The Alaska Department of Public Safety is providing additional funding to non-profit organizations to enhance Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) salaries and reflect their service in providing probation and parole functions.
- The Alaska State Legislature's VPSO Task Force recommended an increase of 15 Village Public Safety Officer positions for each of the next 4 years. This goal was accomplished. To further this effort, Governor Sean Parnell has also committed his administration to ensuring that there is a law enforcement presence in every village that desires it, and has promised to expand the VPSO Program by 15 positions per year for 10 years.
- The state pursued funding for cross-training that would integrate Village Police Officers and Tribal Police Officers into the VPSO training program provided by the Alaska State Troopers, which would both eliminate the need for a tiered certification program and increase the level of training and certification achieved by tribal and village police officers. The state has committed substantial resources to fully realize this effort, which is currently in the developmental stages, and is seeking partnerships with both the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services and Bethel-based Yuut Elitnaurviat toward this end.
- The Department of Public Safety has implemented a significant policy change that permits placement of VPSOs in communities that are on the road system, where previously they were restricted to communities that were not on the road system.
- The Department of Public Safety has also adjusted its policies to permit placement of a second VPSO in communities with populations of sufficient size.
- The Department of Public Safety has requested and received $1,000,000 per year for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to provide funding for dedicated VPSO housing for fiscal years FY2011 and FY2012. Similar funds have been requested for FY2013.